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October 13, 2009

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Full of vim and vinegar

EVERYONE'S grandma knows about the health benefits of vinegar and it's also a time-honored agent in TCM for everything from sore throat to athlete's foot. Zhang Qian puckers up.
Vinegar is essential in Chinese cuisine to make dishes sour and tasty. Its many varieties are widely used salad dressings, mostly in the West.
And for thousands of years, vinegar has held a place in folk medicine worldwide and in traditional Chinese medicine.
Vinegar (cu) promotes warm energy (yang) and is noted as a disinfectant (it's anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral), a detoxifier, digestive aid and treatment (internal and external) for inflammation.
It works especially well in autumn, according to TCM.
It promotes appetite, treats high blood pressure, improves the complexion, treats early stages of athlete's foot (a fungal infection) and fights insomnia.
TCM classifies food into five tastes: sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty. Vinegar is sour, and sometimes bitter.
The vinegars used in TCM are primarily grain vinegars, such as rice, gaoliang (sorghum), barley or millet - made from rice and other alcohols.
TCM does not use glacial acetic acid, and it says nothing about apple cider vinegar, which is used worldwide for its health benefits.
Vinegar has been a part of Chinese people's live for more than 2,000 years; its use is recorded as early as 8 BC. There were famous vinegar workshops in the Spring and Autumn Period (AD 770-467) and the Warring States Period (722-221 BC), and the seasoning became common in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).
About 22 vinegar-making methods are collected in "Qi Min Yao Shu" ("Main Techniques for the Welfare of the People"), a book on agriculture by Jia Sixie in the Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534).
The top four vinegars in China are xiangcu (fragrant vinegar) in Zhenjiang City of Zhejiang Province, lao chencu (mature vinegar) in Shanxi Province, hongqu micu (red yeast vinegar) in Fujian Province and baoning cu (bran vinegar) in Sichuan Province.
Zhenjiang fragrant vinegar is probably the most popular and well-known because of its taste.
Chinese people traditionally make vinegar from grains. Sticky rice and rice are widely used in the south while sorghum and millet are more often used in the north.
Bai cu (white vinegar) made from barley is widely used for external application (as on a wound) and in household cleaning.
During hot weather, Chinese would add vinegar to food to improve the appetite and fumigate rooms with vinegar to prevent infectious diseases.
Its uses include relieving diarrhea and jaundice when taken internally, relieving inflammation and stopping bleeding when used in external application.
It is recommended in cases of indigestion from too much greasy food, in cases of internal bleeding and sore throat.
Its many uses were recorded in the "Ben Cao Gang Mu" ("Compendium of Materia Medica") by famed pharmacist Li Shizhen in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Modern research confirms the many benefits of vinegar, which is rich in amino acids, vitamins and acetic acid, especially rice vinegars.
It has been found to improve digestion and appetite, and to have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, especially rice and apple cider vinegars.
It is said to be helpful in protecting the liver, expanding blood vessels, working as a diuretic and promoting metabolism of proteins and sugar. Apple cider vinegar is part of many weight-loss programs.
Vinegar can also serve as solvent for certain herbs. By soaking in vinegar, the undesirable side-effect of some herbs like yuan hua (daphne genkwa) and gan sui (euphorbia kansui) can be reduced. Vinegar can also strengthen the effect of herbs like wu wei zi (shizandra berry).
Vinegar can expand the functions of other herbs, like danggui (angelica) and baishao (root of herbaceous peony) when they are soaked in vinegar - then they also can help stop bleeding. Vinegar "guides" other herbs toward the liver.
We all know vinegar is sour and bitter, so don't overdo it, lest it cause stomach upset. Drinking it on an empty stomach produces too much gastric acid.
Adding vinegar to soup made by boiling bones can help release the calcium in the bones.
Applying vinegar to a burn can help lower the temperature and reduce skin damage. Adding a little vinegar to bath water can improve the skin.
The Origin Of Vinegar
Du Kang, an emperor of the Xia Dynasty (21-16st century BC) is said to have invented wine making and taught the methods to his son Hei Ta who later moved to Zhenjiang (in today's Zhejiang Province) with his own followers.
They didn't want to throw away their wine and kept it in a sealed jar.
When he opened the jar 21 days later, he smelled a delicious fragrance and found the liquid was both sour and sweet.
It was kept as seasoning and named cu (vinegar), which combines the characters for "21 days" and for "wine."
Medical Uses Of Vinegar
High blood pressure
Soak peanuts in vinegar for seven days. Eat 10-15 peanuts every day for more than a week.
Drink a teaspoon of vinegar in a cup of water and drink before sleep.
External infection/inflammation in early stages
Put vinegar on cotton and apply to the affected area.
Athlete's foot early stages
Mix 1-2 spoon of vinegar in a basin of water at 40 degrees Celsius. Soak foot in the mixture at least 15 minutes a day. Continue for at least two weeks.
Vinegar For beauty
Wash hair once a day with a mixture of 200ml vinegar and 500ml water.
Benefits: Helps get rid of dandruff and prevents hair loss.
Using a mixture of vinegar and water in 1:10 makes hair stronger and glossier.
Combine vinegar and glycerol in 5:1. Apply to the face twice a day.
Makes skin smooth, elastic, reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Before manicure, soak hands in mixture of half a teaspoon of vinegar in warm water.
Improves condition.


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